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Voynov Rebounds From Tough Loss

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
OTTAWA – It turns out that there are a lot of ways to spell Viatcheslav Voynov.

In the program at the World Junior Championships, the Kings prospect was listed as Vyatcheslav Voinov. He has also been mistakenly spelled "Vjacheslav." While he insists it is spelled Viatcheslav Voynov, those letters weren't the important ones to him.

Voynov was only concerned with the letters on the front of his jersey: "POCCHA" [Russia] and the "A" situated just above his heart, designating him as an alternate captain.

As one of the returning players on Russia's elite junior team, Voynov almost led his country to a stunning upset of hockey-crazed Canada in front of 20,380 fans at the hometown ScotiaBank Place with millions more watching around the world.

Every time Canada scored in the semifinal match, Russia had an answer – usually within seconds. That was until Russia took a 5-4 lead with just two minutes and 20 seconds remaining in the contest.

All the Russians had to do was keep the puck out of their own net for 140 seconds to preserve perhaps the most shocking upset in international hockey competition since the "Miracle on Ice" in 1980.

As fate would have it, Canada's Jordan Eberle scored with 4.5 seconds left to knot the game. It was no surprise that Canada used that momentum to advance to the gold medal game in the 6-5 shootout win.

As Voynov's teammate Nikita Filatov said: "god was on their side tonight."

More than three days after the devastating loss, Voynov still couldn't talk about it.

"It is very difficult to describe. I really don't know what to say," Voynov stammered through a translator.

Visibly shaken still, Voynov said: "I still can't believe it."

Tears and frustration are to be expected after you play a "perfect game" yet still manage to lose. Voynov said that he, like presumably many of his countrymen, cried himself to sleep.

Somehow, Russia regrouped to beat Slovakia on Monday to capture their second straight bronze medal at the World Juniors.

"Of course it is really, really pleasant," Voynov said of the win, "but we really wanted the gold. This bronze medal game was very difficult for us to collect."

Although he was personally disappointed with the outcome against Canada, Voynov had a greater responsibility. He couldn't let his own depressed feelings seep out in front of his teammates; he knew that he needed to help rally the troops.

"With wearing the Russian jersey, there is a great responsibility," Voynov said. "But to be a captain, there is an even greater responsibility. I needed to lead the way for the guys and help them with everything.

"I had to help keep our heads up after the loss."

Regardless of the outcome, Voynov enjoyed playing in such an intense environment in Canada. For him, it never gets old wearing the Russian red and blue.

"I have lots of good feelings from playing in this tournament and in this beautiful arena," Voynov said. "I feel so proud to represent my country and to put on the Russian jersey. It is a great honor to represent Russia."

Unlike most of his teammates, Voynov did not have very far to travel after the tournament. Voynov was staying on the continent; a short flight to Manchester to rejoin the Monarchs was all that was needed.

In Manchester, Voynov has enjoyed an offensive explosion in the AHL. But he learned soon after he arrived that his offensive production wasn't what was important.

"Of course I have started playing completely different since I have been in Manchester," Voynov explained. "It is a different style and a different program. Defenseman in North America play very differently.

"They play very simple. Nothing special, nothing fancy. They just do their jobs."

Voynov brought that plain mentality to the World Juniors, where he was a fixture on Russia's top defensive pair. A smooth skater, Voynov was very sound defensively – especially in one-on-one situations and in front of his own net. But he also provided an offensive spark, posting four points (1-3=4) in six games.

Off the ice, Voynov is still adjusting to life in rural New Hampshire. His girlfriend traveled with him from Russia to help make him feel at home. The two have been sharing an apartment in Manchester.

"It is a tough thing, adopting a North American style of living," Voynov said. "My girlfriend has helped me very much when I miss home."

While his dream of winning gold at the World Juniors was dashed, Voynov can look ahead to another: a move to the City of Angels.

"I am not sure how long it will take to get to Los Angeles," Voynov admitted. "But I will work hard this summer and hopefully I will get a shot next year."

By Frank Servalli | Special to LAKings.com

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